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5 Reasons to Avoid Chicago

It can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never visited a massive city before. One of the largest cities in the United States is Chicago, Illinois. It’s home to several major sports teams, a lively music scene, and some of the best pizza in the entire country. But you may want to avoid a stop in Chicago.

While there’s much to love about the Windy City, we are taking a look at a few reasons why you may want to let the breeze carry you past this city. Let’s dive in!

Where Is Chicago?

Chicago sits on the banks of Lake Michigan in the northeastern corner of Illinois. The lake provides an excellent spot for locals to gather during the warmer months. There are beaches and plenty of lakefront activities to enjoy throughout the summer.

However, the lake also affects the area in the winter months with dangerously cold wind chills and massive amounts of snow. The city even gets its nickname “Windy City” from the unpredictable and intense winds that blow in off the lake.

About Chicago, Ill.

With just under 3 million people, Chicago is far from your ordinary midwestern city. It’s a lively city with plenty of exciting things constantly happening. You’ll find music festivals, sporting events, and Broadway shows happening practically any time of the year. The city has a tremendously diverse cultural representation throughout the city. 

The Great Chicago Fire nearly destroyed the city in 1871. The fire ripped through and destroyed several square miles of homes and businesses. It left more than 100,000 people homeless. However, the city showed its resilience, rebounding and growing to more than 500,000 by 1880 and reaching a million before the turn of the century.

It’s a popular tourist spot and attracts more than 50 million visitors in a typical year. Many of these tourists flock to places around the city like Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the shops along the Magnificent Mile.

The public transportation infrastructure is easy to use and allows tourists to navigate the city. However, most of what tourists want to see are in the heart of downtown. You can see a tremendous amount on foot if you don’t mind walking.

Pro Tip: After exploring the famous sites Chicago has to offer, head to Al Capone’s Historic Grave.

Woman standing along Chicago waterline
Fifty million visitors explore Chicago each year, but there are many reasons why it may not be the best tourist destination.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Avoid Chicago

While there’s much to love about the Windy City, it’s far from perfect. Before planning a trip to this major city, you should be mindful of a few things to help you decide whether or not you should avoid Chicago.

1. Traffic Is Terrible

While the city itself may have just under 3 million residents, the greater Chicago area has almost 10 million. Many people choose to live in cities outside of the big city and commute in for work. As a result, this can make all roads leading into and out of the city extremely busy and congested during peak travel times.

While we’re not going to crown Chicago as the “worst” traffic, it’s pretty terrible. It feels like it’s constantly bumper-to-bumper, but rush hour traffic will drive you insane. If you’re lucky enough to catch traffic on a calmer day, there are always those yahoos speeding, driving recklessly, or admiring the skyline instead of keeping their eyes on the road.

If you do choose to visit the city, you may want to consider parking outside of it and riding one of the commuter trains into the city.

2. Parking Is Expensive

Another reason you’ll want to consider parking outside the city is that parking is insanely expensive downtown. You’ll likely spend upwards of $50 per day if you plan to park anywhere close to downtown. If you’re planning to book a hotel, those costs you’ll likely need to pay an additional $30 to $50 per night for your car to sit in one of their parking garage spaces.

In our opinion, the costs for parking are just crazy. If you’re visiting the area, you should really consider parking outside the city and riding a train into the city.

Many of these lots provide 24-hour parking for a few bucks each day. If you’re flying into the area, consider using your favorite ride-sharing service to navigate the city. It’s often easier and cheaper than dealing with finding and paying for a parking garage everywhere you visit. 

Traffic jam leading into Chicago
Avoid Chicago if you don’t enjoy being stuck in traffic or having to pay a lot for parking.

3. Crime Rate Is High

Like most major cities, Chicago has a tremendous amount of crime within its limits. It’s the byproduct of cramming many people into one area. Chicago is an interesting city as you can travel down one street, which is rather safe. But a block or two in another direction, the neighborhood changes completely. If you’ve not spent much time in a large city like Chicago, you can quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite the state having some of the strictest gun laws in the country, the city is frequently making headlines for the large amounts of gun violence that frequently occur.

While these incidents are typically isolated in neighborhoods throughout the city, they can occur anywhere at any time. If you choose to visit, you must constantly be aware of your surroundings and know where you need to go if you need to make a quick exit from a situation.

4. Winter Weather Is Harsh

Don’t let those beautiful pictures of parks around Chicago covered in snow in the winter fool you. They’re incredibly brutal. Sub-zero wind chills are common during winter, and the wind off the lake will send chills down your spine. It’ll feel like you’re freezing from the inside out. Seriously, winters aren’t something to play around with, and if unprepared for them, they’ll send you packing in a hurry.

One of the most frustrating parts of the harsh Chicago winters is that you must dress in layers. If you don’t want to freeze your face off, you’ll need to bundle up every time you step outside. If you can’t immediately take your layers off when you get inside, you’ll find yourself a sweaty mess.

5. Taxes and Fees Are High

Visiting any major city isn’t typically cheap, but Chicago is incredibly expensive. Its 10.25% sales tax beats New York (8.875%) and Los Angeles (9.5%). This will affect the price of just about anything you buy while visiting Chicago, including hotels, rental cars, and meals. It can be challenging to visit Chicago and stay on a budget.

Much like the residents, many people find ways to stay outside of the city and commute into the city when visiting for several days. This allows them to save money on hotels and meals during their stay. While everyone dreams of having the downtown view out their hotel room window, the taxes and fees make it hard for most people to afford.

Chicago, Illinois, USA cityscape over the river.
Venture outside of the city of Chicago for a more relaxing camping experience.

Are There Campgrounds in Chicago?

While Chicago may have some world-class entertainment offerings, the city is severely lacking when it comes to campgrounds. There is one place in the entire city that allows overnight camping: a parking lot at McCormick Place. The cost is $38 per night, and the paved parking lot and semi-truck traffic are far from the leisurely campground you’re likely hoping to experience.

If you want an authentic camping experience, venture outside the city. You’ll need to search in cities like Willow Springs, Oak Forest, and Crete if you want an actual campground. 

Pro Tip: Chicago ranks as one of the 5 Worst Cities for RVing. Can you guess what other four cities also made the list?

Is a Trip to Chicago Worth Your Time?

Chicago is a beautiful city and a great place to visit. However, visiting any large city can be a bit stressful. It can be rather overwhelming if you’re not used to the sights, sounds, and smells of a major city.

The increased costs of visiting Chicago can make it hard to enjoy yourself unless you’ve got deep pockets. So make sure you start saving and stick to the safe tourist spots around town if you plan to visit.

Do you think visiting Chicago is a good idea? Tell us in the comments!

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